Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the road to recovery, an update June 9, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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“I DON’T LIKE YOU,” I told him.

“Most people don’t,” he answered.

And we both laughed. Laughed because I really did like him and he wasn’t to blame for the bad news he shared. As a former journalist, I understand well the habit readers have of blaming the messenger. And now I was doing that to a medical professional.

 

The bruising on my injured right arm has decreased considerably on the front with the bruising (not shown here) shifting to the back of my elbow.

 

What could I do except joke and laugh when my ortho doctor on Wednesday afternoon revealed that total healing and recovery time from my broken shoulder could stretch up to 16 weeks? That’s four more than he told me during our initial visit two weeks ago. Sigh.

And then, as we chatted about the elbow flexing and pendulum exercises I am now doing at home, I found myself in a bit of trouble. I had been doing more than three flex sessions and arm swings daily. “More is not better,” he said, noting that he had me pegged as someone who would do just that. More. Busted.

I like my doctor. He has a great sense of humor, empathy and a personality that is down-to-earth approachable and friendly. I never feel rushed with him. He listens and he answers. And I’m trying to abide by his admonition to “stop when it hurts.” I’m trying, like he says, to rest. I don’t want my bone break, which widened a bit to 2.8 millimeters, to crack wider. Shoulders apparently take a long time to heal.

After that bit of news yesterday, I felt a tad discouraged. But then, because I can choose to be positive, I remembered his words of “everything looks good” upon viewing my latest x-rays. Good is good.

Good is also the continuing encouragement of family and friends. My eldest daughter sends me photos of my granddaughter nearly daily and that makes me happy. I used Google Hang-outs for the first time the other day and that was great, to see and hear darling Isabelle.

 

My friend Kathleen sent a lovely vintage card along with the sweetest message. The thing about the card is the specific selection just for me. Kathleen knows I have chosen hope as a focus word in my life. Long before this accident. She remembered.

 

 

And then Thursday afternoon, I received a bouquet of sunny yellow and white daisies from my sister Lanae and her husband, my niece Tara and her husband and their baby and the couples’ cats.

 

 

And recently I received a handcrafted metal cross from my artist friend Steve, who in his own quiet and creative way offers such encouragement and support.

We all have our burdens to bear in life. That’s a given. I don’t care who you are. But we are not alone. It is in times like this that I fully realize the importance of being there for each other—whether through a card sent, a word spoken, a gift given, a bouquet of flowers sent, prayers offered, well wishes written.

Thank you, dear readers, for being here for me. I will continue to update you occasionally on my recovery.

Have a wonderful weekend and take the time today to encourage someone inside or outside your circle who is going through a difficult time.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I planned to give blood, but… May 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:43 AM
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THE BEST LAID plans don’t always work out. Case in point.

Monday evening my husband and I arrived at the local hospital to donate blood to the Red Cross. My rare AB positive blood is in high demand and I’m always willing to give when I can, the operative words being “when I can.”

With my Rapid Pass in hand, I was prepared to breeze through the check-in process and get down to the task of donating blood.

As we headed down the stairs toward the basement donation room, I observed how shiny and clean the stairs. This was a hospital, so I wouldn’t expect otherwise. And then it happened. I felt my legs stepping into air as I missed the final step on the stairway. I pitched forward toward the floor, door and concrete wall, apparently breaking my fall with my right shoulder. I lay there, stunned and hurting, until Randy helped me up.

At that point, I still thought I would be donating blood. But by the time we reached the donation site just down the hall, my pain was intensifying. I needed to see a doctor. Opting for the less expensive walk-in clinic rather than the ER, we headed next door. By then, the pain was so severe that I was crying.

You’ve likely determined by now that this story does not end well. X-rays showed a broken right shoulder.  As I’ve repeated my this is how this happened story to medical staff a half dozen times in the past few days, I consider how unbelievable that I would fall while at the hospital. This story is even better than fiction.

But this is reality, my reality of 8 -12 weeks of healing and physical therapy, when my body is ready. I’m currently in resting mode with my arm in a sling and instructions to ice as needed and to take Tylenol for pain. I’m starting a basic flex your elbow exercise today and will advance to the pendulum swing in 10 days. I am learning, adjusting and relying heavily on my husband for personal help and help with household tasks I typically do. He’s a great caregiver. He’s been through this with me before when I had my right hip replaced about 10 year ago.

I am not good at resting. I want to write and do photography and more. The photography won’t happen. I can’t hold my arm in the position needed to take photos. And this is prime photo season. Today is my first attempt at using my desktop computer. Typing with my right hand is a challenge. My blogging and other writing likely will be limited. Time will tell what I can and can’t do. I appreciate your understanding and hope you will remain in my readership.

When I start feeling sorry for myself, I consider how much worse my injuries could have been. I could have slammed my head into the concrete wall and suffered a concussion. I could have face-planted and broken by neck. I could have broken other bones that would have required surgery. My orthopedic doctor told me it I had to break a bone, I chose a good one to break. I’ll trust him on that.

So, dear readers, this is the situation I am in now. I am determined to do what I am told or risk additional injury and surgery. I don’t have to like that I am suffering this painful, limiting injury. But I will deal with it. There is no choice.

Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

 

 

 

I’d rather not be in Vegas April 6, 2011

I've lost 70 percent of the hearing in my right ear due to a sudden sensory hearing loss.

I AM NOT A RISK TAKER.

I’ve walked through a Minnesota casino twice and failed to pull a single lever on a slot machine or drop a single coin.

I prefer to play it safe, to not risk losing for the slim possibility of winning. It is the reason I don’t buy lottery tickets. I feel like I’m throwing away my money.

That is partially why a decision I am currently facing is so incredibly difficult.

Do I have surgery or not?

Will I be among the 25 in 100 who benefit from a sac round window graft? Even the name of the surgery is daunting. I don’t know enough right now about the outpatient ear surgery to decide.

But I have the statistics. For only one in four patients, the surgery successfully restores some hearing. But the percentage of hearing regained is perhaps only 20 percent. The slim possibility exists—about two percent—that the surgery could cause me to lose all of my hearing in my right ear. That really doesn’t matter given I’m basically deaf in my right ear anyway due to a sudden sensory hearing loss that occurred a month ago.

I currently have only 30 percent hearing in that ear. I hear only “noise,” nothing as distinguishable as a word. I also suffer from tinnitus, ringing in my right ear.

On Tuesday when I met with a renowned ear specialist in Minneapolis, I was presented with the surgery option. I was not expecting this, was not prepared with a list of questions. My immediate thought was this: “I don’t want to have more surgery.”

Already in my life, I’ve had seven surgeries, the first at age four to correct my vision. Since then, I’ve had oral surgery to remove my wisdom teeth, three Caesarean sections, inguinal hernia surgery and my last, total right hip joint replacement, not quite three years ago.

I am not anxious to rush into another surgery.

But time is of the essence. Apparently the sooner the surgery is done after the hearing loss, the better. I don’t understand why and I didn’t think to ask.

My doctor offered no recommendation on the surgery. I asked. He says he doesn’t recommend, only presents the options and information and allows the patient to decide.

I am at the point now of researching, pondering, praying, considering a second opinion, losing sleep over this decision.

What should I do?

Should I risk throwing away $3,000—my health insurance deductible? Should I risk not having the surgery if it could restore even a small percentage of my hearing? (A hearing aid will not help with the type of hearing loss I have.) Should I risk the risks that are always there whenever you have surgery?

I’m not a gambler. But right now I feel like I’m in Vegas.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I can’t hear you March 31, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 8:01 AM
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COULD SOMEONE PLEASE answer the phone, turn off the radio and fix the potholes?

That isn’t going to happen. Not for me now, anytime soon or perhaps ever.

Welcome to my new world of ringing telephones, annoying transistor radios and bothersome potholes. I’ll explain after giving you some background.

Three weeks ago I suffered a sudden sensory hearing loss. One minute I could hear mostly fine in my right ear. The next minute it was as if someone had closed the door to my hearing.

At this point, why I suddenly lost 70 percent of the hearing in my right ear remains an unknown. It could be related to an ear trauma three years ago at a Wisconsin waterpark where a waterfall pounded my head. That caused permanent nerve damage, and some hearing loss, to my right inner ear. Or it could be the result of a viral infection, or something else.

Whatever the cause, I now have only 30 percent of my hearing in my right ear.

Thus, the ringing telephone, the transistor and the problem potholes have become issues for me. It’s not like I didn’t try to eliminate all three.

I tried a 10-day mega dose of inflammation-reducing steroids in an attempt to salvage some, if not all, of my hearing. The Prednisone didn’t work, only made me jittery, sleepless and emotional. I noticed no improvement in my hearing. The drug is typically most effective within 48 hours of symptom onset and my treatment started long after that.

I see a specialist next week to recheck my hearing and perhaps get some answers.

I took this photo of my eyes last week when I wasn't getting much sleep due to the effects of my steroid treatment. I'm still having sleep issues.

For now, I’ve accepted the fact that this is my new world of hearing. Sometimes the tinnitus is so bad that I joke to my husband, “Can you please answer the telephone?” Only problem, the telephone is inside my right ear.

As for the transistor, those of you old enough to remember transistor radios will also recall how they were often plagued by poor reception resulting in lots of static. I’m hearing that type of static now in my right ear more often than I like.

With my “bad” right ear I hear just “noise,” nothing as clear or distinct as an individual word.

Driving over an uneven roadway surface, like a pothole or a crack, hurts my ear with the thump echoing unpleasantly inside my ear.

I’m trying to adjust to this hearing loss. But, honestly, it’s not always easy. I can barely tolerate the organ music in church and singing isn’t too much fun any more.

My right ear, in which I've lost 70 percent of my hearing due to a sudden sensory hearing loss.

But most difficult for me, like anyone with a hearing loss, is the inability to clearly hear conversations. And for me, a blogger and writer, that’s a very big deal. I need to hear, and hear accurately.

All too often I find myself asking others to speak louder. I’m sure they’re thinking, “Why doesn’t she just get a hearing aid?” It’s not that simple. An audiologist and an ear/nose/throat doctor have told me that a hearing aid will not help, not with this type of hearing loss.

Put me in a room full of people, and I struggle to hear.

The other night while waiting in a check-out line at the grocery store, I was frustrated because I couldn’t hear everything the young male checker in the lane next to me was telling the bagger. He was offering her relationship advice, something about his fiancée who’d gone to college on the East Coast and who’d cheated on him. I caught the advice about hanging on to someone you care about and to, basically, not mess it up. It would have been a great blog topic, but I couldn’t hear enough of the conversation to accurately pull together a post. My days of eavesdropping may have ended with this sudden sensory hearing loss.

Despite all of this, I realize my health issues could be much worse and that many people suffer from severe hearing losses.

Like all other challenges I’ve faced in my life, I’ll adjust, adapt, accept and move on.

Yet, if I feel the need to cry, which I have several times already, I’ll cry.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

I belong to a pretty hip club June 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:36 AM
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TWO YEARS AGO TODAY, at age 51, I became a card-carrying member of a club I never asked to join. It’s a pretty hip organization—pun intended—given all members sport new hips.

My club membership card, which I’m supposed to carry in my pocketbook at all times (and I do), verifies that I have a “metallic surgical implant.” For me specifically, that’s a ceramic hip. The “metallic” part is the pin securing the hip in place.

Now, I really don’t care to think about the artificial joint or about that pin which appears exceptionally long in an X-ray. Such thoughts disconcert me. I’m not the medical type.

But nearly every day I am reminded that I have a body part which is not my own.

That reminder nags at me whenever I bend—when I’m gardening, slipping on my shoes, shooting photos, even cutting my toe nails. I’m not supposed to bend my hip more than 90 degrees or I risk dislocating it.

The mere thought of such a painful event is enough to keep me obedient, although my husband says I break that 90-degree rule all too often. I’ve never professed to be good at math.

Despite that life-long restriction, I remain grateful for my new hip. I can walk again, and without pain.

For two years, until I worked up the courage to undergo total hip replacement, I lived with pain 24/7. The simple act of walking was nearly impossible. Climbing stairs literally meant “climbing stairs.”

Today, unless you know I have an artificial hip, you wouldn’t see that just from looking at me. No one expects a 50-something woman to have a fake hip.

I never expected this either. Even my doctor, who originally diagnosed my medical condition as a pinched sciatic nerve, apparently thought me too young for a hip so arthritic that bone rubbed against bone. Once examined by an orthopedic surgeon, I was given a six-month to five-year time frame in which I would need surgery. I lasted two years.

Because of my young age—in terms of joint replacement—I wanted to delay surgery as long as possible. My surgeon simply told me, “whenever you’re ready.”

Many family members and friends, however, pressured me to have the surgery immediately. They meant well. But unless you have walked in someone else’s shoes, or in my situation walked with an arthritic hip, those comments only serve to madden and frustrate.

I’ve learned much for having gone through this total hip replacement. I appreciate good health and modern medicine. I empathize with those who struggle to walk and/or live with pain. I know the meaning of patience. I’ve experienced the depth and breadth of my husband’s love through his attentive care and encouragement.

Often, in life’s most challenging moments, we learn the most.

In two decades I’ll have the opportunity to advance my education, when my membership card comes up for renewal.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling